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National Discount Chain Fined For Selling Products Containing Toxic Metals

CONTACT: Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-5507

February 8, 2010

Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., a national chain that retails discount merchandise, will pay the State of Vermont $100,000 to settle claims that its offer of products containing high amounts of lead and cadmium in Vermont violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. The settlement also requires the company to cease selling jewelry and comply with legal limits on the amount of lead and cadmium in consumer products. Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell praised the settlement, the second of its kind against a major company, as a milestone in the campaign to protect children in Vermont by reducing their exposure to toxic metals. Both lead and cadmium are widely known to be toxic substances that can cause serious harm to humans, particularly children, if ingested.

The case arose following public reports in late 2007 that certain items of jewelry at Dollar Tree contained high levels of lead and cadmium. The Attorney General’s Office then arranged to test four products from a Dollar Tree store in Vermont—earrings, a necklace, a digital watch and a pony tail holder—and learned that they contained very high concentrations of one or both of those metals. Lead concentrations ranged from 165 to over 1,600 times the current legal limit and cadmium levels were also extraordinarily high.

Dollar Tree, which is based in Chesapeake, Virginia, has six stores in Vermont. The settlement prohibits the company from selling in or into the State of Vermont any products commonly understood to be jewelry, and requires it to comply with all current and future state and federal limits on lead and cadmium. Dollar Tree must also pay the State $100,000 in civil penalties and costs, of which $50,000 is earmarked for children’s health programs through the Vermont Department of Health.

Parents are strongly advised to keep all cheap metal jewelry away from their young children. Lead in children’s jewelry has been pervasive in the marketplace and is dangerous.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.